Moore's Law Radio : Wi-Fi Digital radio

Are Analog Circuits on their way out?? Granted, nature is analog and so, too, are the circuits that drive wireless communication. But analog devices are generally harder to miniaturize and have slowly been ceding ground to digital components.

An experimental new radio chip developed by Intel could signal that the trend is accelerating. The new radio, a Wi-Fi transceiver that Intel says is constructed mostly of digital components, debuted in September at the company's annual developer forum in San Fransisco. Intel calls the technology a "Moore's Law radio," for its potential to take advantage of digital circuitry's famed miniaturization trend.

Ultimately the technology could lead to smaller, slimmer portable devices, by integrating a smartphones radio and processors on a single sliver of silicon. But when that will happen and what sort of impact it will have on products is still unclear.

There's a good reason why this chipmaker's fantasy of an essentially single-chip smartphone has yet to be realized.Radio-frequency circuits are especially sensitive to design changes, and properties of analog components like inductor's don't improve as the devices get smaller. As a result analog chip's tend to lag behind there all digital counter-parts by a couple of manufacturing process generations, which means that there features are much less fine.

Transforming analog radios-or at least some of their components - into digital radios could potentially bridge that gap. And over the years, digital circuits have taken over a bit more over the analog realm. The poster child for this trend is the phase-locked loop, a core signal-processing circuit that is now constructed from digital components.

To make its Wi-Fi transceiver, Intel says it had to go back to the basics mathematics of Radio communications. "Its not just the replacement of analog components," says Yorgos Palaskas, who leads Intel's radio Integration lab. 'It has to be done differently".

Intel's new Wi-Fi radio isn't entirely digital yet. Some components are still analog. Intel made an impression when it presented details on core components of the radio at the IEEE International Solid state circuits.Intel's radio could potentially play well alongside the more advanced digital processor for today's smartphones.

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